This is a video from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. I've seen this about a hundred times myself but can't think of a better way to put it. From day one, Brian Burke knew the value of Nazem Kadri. Three and a half years later, Leafs fans have begun to see what he saw.
We all knew the kind of skill Kadri possessed. He has excellent vision, a quick release, good speed and a little edge to his game. Just the kind of player Brian Burke loves. His main drawback was his physicality and his two-way game. This was a make or break year for Kadri and he has been making the best of his opportunity.
Through 23 games this season, Nazem Kadri has 10 goals and 23 points. He leads the Maple Leafs in scoring while only averaging 15 minutes a game. He has been a threat, and teams around the league have started to take notice.
Who deserves the credit for Kadri's success? Everyone wants to say Dallas Eakins, and I completely agree. But I think Nazem Kadri deserves a great deal of credit himself.
It's not easy being a first round draft pick for the Toronto Maple Leafs, let alone a top 10 pick. In the last 20 years, Toronto has not had a single first round pick who panned out while on the Leafs. Kadri is doing something that fans have not seen in a very long time: succeeding.
For three and a half years, Kadri's tenure with the Leafs has been riddled with unrealistic expectations, constant trade rumours and a flurry of hate from fans everywhere. But nothing fazed him. He was able to put all of that on the back burner and go along with his development. The amount of character that takes for a young player is incredible and is something the Leafs have been in sore need of for a long time.
How many times have the Leafs brought in a "premiere" player who didn't pan out in Toronto? Too many times to count. So many players have come to Toronto but could not play under so much scrutiny. Nazem Kadri developed under the same scrutiny all these other players have gone through. He's hardened and has managed to stay composed.
I don't see Kadri taking a step back. For him to have done what he's done so far is a remarkable feat, and he's still only 22. So many players have been late bloomers and have gone on to have successful careers. Current Maple Leaf James Van Riemsdyk is another one of those players who needed a little extra time, but sometimes waiting is the best thing that could have happened.
With the Leafs' core being as young as it is, the sky is the limit for this team. And I see Kadri being an instrumental part of this team for years to come.